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A 17-year-old boy from Lucknow, UP shot and killed his mother. Police claimed it was because of video game PUBG

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 A 17-year-old boy from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh allegedly shot and killed his mother and hid her body in the bedroom of their house for three days before police discovered the crime.

Police allege the boy killed his mother after she prohibited him from playing the popular online multiplayer battle royale game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds or PUBG.

The boy reportedly used his father's licensed revolver to shoot and kill his mother, and stored her body in an air-conditioned room in their house to slow decomposition.

News outlets and police have been quick to claim that PUBG and video games were responsible for the boy‘s actions.

But are video games really the cause of this kind of violence? Do children simply become violent and act out on violent tendencies because of video games?

We spoke to child psychiatrists and experts to find out.

Do Video Games Make Children More Violent?

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(Photo Courtesy: Bethesda)

We reached out to Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Hospitals and Dr Bhushan Chaudhari, Professor of Psychiatry at Pune's Dr. DY Patil Medical College.

Both Dr Parikh and Dr Chaudhari say that the link between watching violence and aggressive behaviour has been well established. But the answer is a lot more complex than just that.

"It depends on many reasons. Sometimes children will repeat what they see in video games and other violent media, like a simulation of the violence. In other cases, it depends on the child's temperament and their home environment."
Dr Bhushan Chaudhari, Professor of Psychiatry, Pune's Dr. DY Patil Medical College
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Albert Bandura & The Bobo Doll Experiment

A still from PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG)

(Photo Courtesy: PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds)

The relationship between watching violence and increased aggression has been studied in the past. The Bobo Doll experiment was conducted by Albert Bandura from 1961 to 1963, where he observed the effect of children watching an adult hit a doll called Bobo, and how it affected them. The adults in the experiment were either rewarded, punished, or faced no consequences for hitting the doll.

After the viewing, the children were left in a room with the doll and the groups that witnessed violence displayed markedly more aggressive tendencies than the group that saw no violence.

"Social learning is one of the key aspects for aggression to be learned, and violence needs to be seen to be learned. If we go back to Bandura's study, it's been established that exposure to violence results into aggression in children."
Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Hospitals

But Wait, It's Still More Complex..

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(Photo Courtesy: From Software)

Apart from the media children consume, other aspects of their lives will also shape their responses and reactions to violence. From their home lives, to their parents' relationship with each other, the environment a child grows up in can either, forgive the cliché, make or break them as people.

A 2019 study published in Frontiers journal confirmed that exposure to violent video games showed a connection to adolescent aggression. However, it adds:

"For individuals with a good family environment, exposure to violent video games only has a direct effect on aggression; however, for those with poor family environment, there is an indirect effect mediated by normative beliefs about aggression alongside a direct effect."

The study basically says that violent video games increased adolescent aggression but that healthy, normal views and beliefs about aggression, and a healthy family environment regulated this, and reduced their aggression. However, if the child was already in a troubled environment, or witnessed violence at home, or was a victim of abuse or neglect, this may lead to them becoming aggressive or violent.

The study adds that "exposure to violent video games is positively related to adolescent aggression; normative beliefs about aggression have a mediating effect on exposure to violent video games and adolescent aggression, while the family environment regulates the first part of the mediation process."

How Can We Fix This?

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(Photo Courtesy: Facepunch Studios)

Dr Parikh adds that teaching your child empathy and assertiveness is important, as both of these positively correlate with better handling of aggression and violence.

"Tackling assertiveness has so much evidence of reducing aggressive behaviour. And yes if need be, they might still struggle and need help from a professional or a counsellor. Meanwhile, the home environment needs to be a place where children can feel safe and express themselves. Sometimes there's pressure from the parents that creates a disharmony at home. Disharmony in itself becomes a trigger."
Dr. Samir Parikh, Director, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Hospitals

Seeing aggression and violence does make children more aggressive, but this is not limited to video game violence. It includes any forms of violence, whether that's violent movies, violent games, violence at home, or anything more serious.

Further, a healthy home environment, coupled with family that ensures children feel safe and free to express themselves, can help children understand violence and respond to it more appropriately.

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